Monday, August 26, 2013

Security and Justice

In my career as a meteorologist, I've become very familiar with the history of storms, at least as well as it's known - mostly in the USA, but to some limited extent, around the world.  What that knowledge gives me is an insight into the future.  And I can say with some certainty that more storm-related disasters are going to occur - unfortunately, I'm not even close to being able to say where or when.  The history of storms tells us important things about how secure we really are from such disasters:  no one is absolutely secure!

When it comes to tornadoes, what I know of the odds of being hit by the violent winds in a violent tornado here in my home are pretty small, despite the fact that central OK is more or less the violent tornado capitol of the world.  If I do nothing to prepare for such an event, it's quite likely that not being prepared will be of little consequence.  Of course, there are different levels of being prepared, and some of them are neither difficult or expensive, so why not do at least that much?  Anyway, I don't live where I do without realizing that the chances of being hit badly are not zero!  My understanding of tornado climatology tells me that I am not 'secure' from this threat.

After tornado disasters, I often hear people interviewed after a tornado saying that their sense of security has been swept away, just as their homes were.  When it comes to geophysical hazards, there can be no one immune from them, anywhere on the planet:  floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, landslides, wildfires, tsunamis, drought, bitter cold, heavy snow, ice storms, tropical storms, lightning, lahars, pyroclastic flows, ... the list of geophysical hazards is long and scary.  No one is secure from geophysical hazards no matter where they live.  This says nothing about asteriod and comet impacts, nearby supernovae, and other astronomical hazards.  And there are various and sundry biological hazards, as well:  plagues, infections, molds, biological threats to our food and water supplies, parasites, venomous animals and plants, large predatory animals, etc.  We survive on this planet only by the consent of natural processes, and that's subject to withdrawal at any time with little or no warning.  No, we're not secure and if we feel secure, we should have some appreciation for the fact that such a feeling is simply an illusion.  Some of the hazards that threaten us can be prepared for - others, not so much.  I repeat; there is no security!

As if that's not enough, there are hazards inflicted by our fellow humans:  murder, robbery, rape, character assassination, identity theft, physical and mental abuse, torture, bombs, etc.  We in modern societies like to think that our laws and police give us security from these threats, but it's obvious that some people are committing immoral acts on others all the time (sometimes, even the police!).  My house has been burglarized, I was molested as a boy (by a non-relative), my car has been broken into and things taken.  Although I clearly can't believe I'm secure from such things and have the evidence to confirm that, when these things happened to me, I found myself feeling both angry and violated, hoping to find justice, somehow.  In a formal sense, not one of these crimes has been prosecuted by the law.

After our house was burglarized, I was pretty sure I knew who had done it (and so did the police), but the police told us there was little chance of seeing justice served to him.  That fed my anger and I was considering all sorts of measures, such as putting bars on the windows.  But I concluded that I would be putting myself behind bars, while the criminal was footloose and fancy-free.  The more I thought, I realized that the material things he stole would be converted to cash at much less than their actual value, and that cash wouldn't last him long.  He'd live his whole life as a petty thief, unless he escalated to something serious, in which case he'd probably end up dead or in prison for a long time.  If I did nothing to him, his life was his own form of self-inflicted justice, whereas my life was one of happiness and privilege.  His miserable life was much more effective than any vengeance I might visit upon him (and possibly commit a crime in doing so).  No, it was simply best to let go of my anger, and not worry about my material possessions so much that I would become their prisoner.

Some other things have happened I won't go into but my general feeling is that I no longer feel the need to see justice in action.  Although I'm an atheist and so have no belief in an afterlife where bad people are punished, I do have a rational belief that at least some form of justice will be served even when I don't see it.  I refuse to let bad people ruin my life.

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